AW Flash Fiction — “The Dance” — 2/21/10

AW Flash fiction = 90 minutes from reveal of them word(s) (the dance) until completed story must be posted online.


The front door slammed and the stairs echoed with the pounding of feet fleeing to the upper floor. A second slam followed, no less forceful but muffled by the greater distance between it and Lily. She dried her hands on a dish towel then checked her watch. Ten-thirty. Right on time. The slams did not bode well though.

“Carly?” she asked as she rapped on her daughter’s door. “Can I come in?”

“Come back later. I’m reliving a devastation of epic proportions,” came her teenage daughter’s articulate but melodramatic reply.

“Did the dance not go well?” Lily frowned at the door. She wanted to go in to comfort her daughter, to learn more about this epic devastation. That particular hyperbole covered everything from a friend’s snide look to a wayward pimple that refused to surrender to tinted Clearasil.

Carly threw open the door, looked at her mother then threw herself on her bed, face down, mute.

“What happened, Carly?” Lily asked as she perched on the edge of the bed. She glanced around the room, her daughter’s sanctuary, a unique blend of childhood relics, athletic trophies and fangirl posters of the latest teen throbs. Lily remembered her own posters of Shaun Cassidy.

“I’m the laughingstock of the school. Everyone saw. Everyone knows now. I could just die, die, die.” She rolled over and stabbed herself in the heart with an imaginary dagger. “Uuuuggggghh…I’m such a loser!”

“What happened?” Lily asked again. Her daughter usually required at least a half dozen promptings before she cracked open and shared her angst. When she was little, a single word, a warm lap and a hug was all it took. The price had risen exponentially as soon as Carly hit the double digits in age. She stroked her daughter’s hair off her face and offered a tentative, “I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think it is.”

“Uuugghgh!!!” Carly exclaimed then rolled back over onto her stomach.

At least she wasn’t crying, Lily thought, so it couldn’t have been that bad. She listed off a few tantrum triggers. “Did one of your friends treat you badly? Did someone say something mean? Did someone you like not ask you to dance?”

Carly rolled to her side and cracked an eye open at her mother then exclaimed in exasperation again as she returned to her fully supine position. She scissor kicked her legs a few times on the mattress as if to swim away from her misery.

Impatient, Lily pulled out her big gun. “Okay, well when you’re ready to talk, come find me.” She rose off Carly’s bed and walked to the door expecting any second to hear the word “wait!” But when it hadn’t come by the time she reached the door, Lily slowed and repeated, “I’ll just be in my room, if you want to talk…” Nothing. She sighed and left Carly’s room and went to her own.

In her bathroom, she gazed at the reflection in the mirror, at the older version of her daughter’s face that stared back at her. Palms flat against her cheeks, she tugged the skin toward her ears to create a poor man’s facelift. Gone was the dewy complexion and cheeks that blushed at even the slightest hint of attraction or embarrassment. After ten minutes, she returned to her daughter’s room.

Before she could knock, she heard her daughter chatting on the phone.

“You think?”

“He did? Really? When was this?”

“Okay tell me everything he said and don’t leave anything out or I’ll come and torture you.”

“God, I was such a dork. I can’t believe I did that. All I know is I was dancing and then Mackenzie comes up and is all, ‘Nice dance moves, Carly’ and I’m all, ‘Thanks’ and then she and her posse all started laughing. So I look over and he’s like watching me and like laughing too. Oh my God. I just wanted to die!”

“You.Have.Got.To.Be.Kidding.Me! Nooooo….”

“Really? REALLY? Oh my God…you have got to be kidding me!”

Lily smiled and returned to her room. Crisis averted. Maybe Carly’s dance hadn’t been such a disaster after all. As she removed her clothes to dress for bed, she spied an old photograph on her nightstand. In it, Carly held her cherished Mr. Fluffaluffagus, the same stuffed animal Lily had begged and pleaded for Carly to finally give up when the excesses of her love had taken their toll. She didn’t remember when Carly had finally agreed just that she eventually had because the ratty Mr. Fluffaluffagus now sat on Lily’s nightstand next to the photograph. He’d sat there as a silent sentinel for at least the past ten years. Lily grabbed the beloved toy and slipped into her bed. She hugged him close and said, “I know just how you feel, my friend,” then turned out the light and went to sleep.